Sunday, 25 December 2016
Sunday, 18 December 2016
I know folk are only trying to be festive when they ask, “Are you all set for Christmas?” but it drives me mad! I would like to have made a pile of beautiful home-made presents but to date I have not written any cards, wrapped any gifts or purchased any Christmas food. By Sunday afternoon each week I wonder what I have been actually been doing frittering away my time then I jot down a few reminders for my blog and realise I have really managed to fit quite a lot in;)
I did semi-custom quilting on a customer’s “Silent Movie Star” and my free-handing felt seriously rusty after doing mainly computer pantos and lots of lines lately. I was reminded why I have a thing about gold lamé as the quilting on it positively glittered!
I met Freya on the train to Edinburgh for our trip to the Russian Consulate to obtain our visas. I was concerned when the very plain building in which it was located looked deserted apart from a tiny hand-written note advising visitors to turn left, go through a car-park and enter from the rear of the property. We had to have our fingerprints digitally recorded then handed over forms, passports and the pricey fee but we still won’t know for another week whether we have been successful.
We spent the rest of the day wandering around the Christmas market. By chance I spotted a poster for “The Goldfinch” which was on loan to the National Gallery of Scotland. It was thrilling to see the real painting on which Donna Tartt’s fictional novel about its theft was based. The exquisite, small bird’s portrait was painted in 1654 by Dutch painter, Carel Fabritius.
It was lovely to catch up with Freya as I had not seen her since October and we were both very excited to discuss plans for our weekend in St Petersburg. It is a good job we had lots to say to each other as our train home was delayed by almost 3 hours.
I received a surprising email from The Modern Quilt Guild about my QuiltCon entries. “Tartan Tattoo” has been accepted for the modern traditional category but “Shield Maiden” was rejected from the show. I was so sure that the SM quilt was just the sort of thing that QuiltCon would be looking for. I am in “good company” as far as rejections go - there were many amazing rejects on Facebook and Instagram so it will be very interesting to see what quilts have actually been selected. There were some good social media posts about why entrants should not get so het up about rejections and I will certainly enter “Shield Maiden” elsewhere but it is always disappointing to make a quilt specially for a particular contest then it does not make it.
My week ahead is likely to involve a last minute attempt at making something Christmassy, sellotape, glitter, a frantic scramble for the last mailing dates, wishing I had bought wrapping paper in July and hunting for Brussels sprouts!
Sunday, 11 December 2016
Freya has been valiantly studying Russian as one of her minor courses at Uni. It has been an intense language course, taught in fast Russian by Russian natives with fancy cyrillic handwriting. She has been wondering whether to continue with it because she has to spend so much time learning tricky grammar and vocabulary that she is worried that her other subjects might not get so much attention. Rather on a whim, I suggested that we set off on a brief expedition to St Petersburg during her Christmas holiday. Growing up in the Cold War, I never thought that a trip to Russia would ever have been possible. I only know a handful of words including “perestroika”, “vodka” and “Dostoyevsky” but I have read all sorts of wonderful Russian novels in my time and Mo has lent me a fur hat. As you can see in this week’s blog title, I have used Google Translate to ask how to find the Quilt Shop - где находится стеганый магазин?
It would have been fun to have kept the trip as a surprise but I had to tell her as we both had to complete a lengthy online visa application and will have to attend the Russian Consulate in Edinburgh to have our fingerprints taken. We had to declare every foreign visit for the past 10 years. My passport had been date stamped for the USA but EU countries have not done that in years so I used my blog to approximate my other travel dates. Fingers crossed that we actually get the visas because I had to book flights and accommodation first in order to say where and when the trip would be!
I am in between major quilt projects so I had two DIY quilt ladies here this week. One of them had been given inaccurate advice on measuring fabric for her quilt back so it was too small. It was not possible to attach side clamps so there may be the odd tiny bumfle. We used a computerised pattern called “Candyland” and I trimmed both ends of the quilt afterwards so nobody will be able to tell it was not quite the right size.
I have now made a dozen mini purses as stocking fillers but I still have around 20 short zips left so maybe I will make some more for Fenella to sell in aid of her Girl Guides trip to Norway;)
This week I hope to get some of a customer’s “Silent Movie Star” quilt done, meet Freya in Edinburgh for our assignation and think about buying myself some thermals!
Sunday, 4 December 2016
For months I had planned to quilt the Civil War tumbler quilt with close wavy lines but at the last minute I wavered and chose a pantograph pattern called “Turkish Tiles”. I worried that I should have chosen the version where the tiles change direction and got frustrated when Quilt Path randomly crashed twice. I had to restart the quilting and there was some unintended crossing over of lines BUT it is finished and it is for me so it does the job perfectly well. It is a pretty large quilt with over 1100 tumblers but I used a wool wadding so it is as light as a feather.
I had a bee in my bonnet about perfecting the measurements and method for making lined tartan zip-up purses. The reason for this project is that I seem to have a large quantity of annoyingly short zips and before I can justify ordering some more longer ones I “need” to use those up! After faffing around with zips that are positioned part of the way down one side, I decided that going back to Plan A of a top opening zip was the most practical as it does not matter which side the zip head is inserted. I have made copious notes that suggest cutting the lining bigger so there is plenty of room to turn the zip opening then everything gets trimmed to match later;) I have sent Freya the prototypes to give to her Foreign Friends as stocking fillers. The wool tartan is really nice but I might rustle up a few more purses from brightly coloured African fabrics.
I did use the wavy line quilting on a customer quilt that will raffled in aid of polio research. The customer requested something different in the borders to the body of the quilt but I did not trust QP to be accurate enough so the wavy lines went all of the way across then I added some freehand small spirals in the outer borders for interest.
The rest of my week was taken up with teaching and trawling the internet for quirky Christmas presents and how to apply for a Russian visa - just in case;)
Sunday, 27 November 2016
Monday morning was bitterly cold and I wished I had fingerless gloves because my hands were so cold I could not feel them. After a hot, strong cup of coffee, I plucked up the courage to stitch words written in Viking runes onto Shield Maiden. Runes are just an alphabet system, not an actual language, so I just had to write out the words that I wanted on the quilt into their runic form. They are quite hidden and you really have to look for them!
The next adventure was to use a test piece of linen to see if the “blood” spattered effect would work. I used watered down fabric paint in a spray bottle, toothbrush and pastry brush to apply my Jackson Pollock style artistry. Because it was raining heavily outside, I had to fling the paint onto the quilt while it was on my workshop table. Afterwards it looked like I had been butchering something - there was red-brown paint on my sewing machine, carpet and table which took some time to scrub off. It just shows how difficult it must be to get away with murder;)
I co-opted Tania into helping me block the probably finished quilt then hang it outside for photos. I had a choice of full sun or very dark shade because I don’t have any blank walls where I can take uncluttered photos inside. I have been warned by my friends to step away from the quilt now and not be tempted to add any further embellishment, not even pieces of antler…
As usual, after an intense project, I was a bit lost so I decided to finish piecing my tumbler quilt which I may give to myself for Christmas.
I did not do any significant Black Friday shopping apart from a vintage wool tartan dressing gown from Ebay. I have visions of me wearing it to quilt with my wellies and thick socks in the depths of winter!
Sunday, 20 November 2016
Now that it is on Freya’s bed in Uni Halls, I can post photos of her “away” Christmas quilt. It is a Betty Quilt pattern that I downloaded from Erica Jackman on Craftsy. It was quick and easy to piece and I used a computer panto called “ Let it Snow” by Natalia Majors at www.sunstonequilting.com The fabrics have a fun Scandi look but I will have to warn her to use a load of colour catchers if she ever washes it since red dye was obviously coming out while I ironed the binding!
I have got Shield Maiden to a point where it could be hung (on a sturdy batten as it is so heavy!) Hand sewing linen is seriously heavy duty, especially when the edges have been overlocked to stop them unravelling. The deadline for Quilt Con is in 10 days so it at least needs to be finished looking for photos. I can add some stitched runes if I think they will work. I want to paint the trickles gold then experiment on a piece of sacrificial linen to see if a radical idea might work… The quilt is subtle but in my opinion it currently lacks “Oomph”.
Purdah was rejected from the SAQA Layered Voices exhibition with a very professional let-down informing me that only 23 out of 535 made the cut. Those were high odds but I had hoped that Purdah was relevant to that sort of exhibition. I don’t know where Purdah can be exhibited. It clearly is more of a statement than a competition piece, like so many other things I have made. I wonder whether some quilters win consistently in competitions because they aim to perfect a particular style of quilt. I am obviously still busy experimenting, trying to find “my” style;)
Sunday, 13 November 2016
I gave Shield Maiden my full attention for 2 whole days and completed the basic quilting. I have decided that I will face its edges and add the hanging sleeve then decide whether to add more quilting or embroidered runes IF there is still time to meet the QuiltCon competition deadline.
I had hoped that the felt-pen guidelines that I drew on with a so-called washable marker would just wipe off but they did not! Next I tried rubbing them quite vigorously with a bar of soap and wet sponge to no avail. Feeling slightly panicky, I purchased an armoury of stain removers. Shield Maiden is already a heavy quilt as it has a layer of cotton and a layer of wool wadding, a wool scarf and front and back of coarse linen. By the time it got plunged into a bath of cold water with a splash of Fairy liquid and vinegar, it weighed a ton! I transported it back to my workshop in a large bucket for a spin in the washing machine.
The pen marks had all gone but the quilt looked worrying “antiqued”. This can be a good look for a quilt but I had rather liked the smooth finish on the coarse linen before washing. I laid it out to dry on the table, hoping that would recover.
48 hours later it was still damp and still looked decidedly crinkly so I threw it into the tumble dryer with tennis balls for a rumble, not daring to give it any heat. When it emerged it was dry but not flat and still wrinkled…
The next remedy was to block it by dampening it and pinning it out. At least it is now flat enough to add the few lines of stitching that I want to highlight around the motif. After that I may coerce Tania into helping me to give it a bit of a stretch since two people pulling might help. The stitching has held up remarkably well considering its harsh treatment.
The photos don’t actually look too bad and I am probably over-reacting but I am already drafting a blurb that includes the words “weather-beaten” when describing Shield Maiden. Meanwhile I have wondered how to incorporate a subtle length of leather thong somewhere and have decided to buy lookalike Dremel drill-bits to bore holes into antler pieces. I should probably just take up LARPing as a hobby - it would be a good excuse to create quilted costumes out of fur and other unusual found objects.
(Over the weekend I finished off a project for Freya but I will not post any spoiler pics until she has seen it;))
My 1951 100th anniversary Singer Featherweight arrived back from its holiday at Bamber Sewing Machine Centre, Manchester www.bambersew.com
I tried to flag down the courier’s van as it drove off without checking that I was in my workshop so it had to be re-delivered the next day.
It came in a box packed out with polystyrene blocks and the machine itself had lots of wadding around it inside its wee case so it had an extra smooth journey. I was amazed at the technician’s checklist which actually had 46 points that should be investigated. The machine was certainly very clean and shiny and I am quite sure the knobs and levers did not look as pristine as that before.
The great thing with Bambers is that they are such a long established family business that they are bound to have lots of long-forgotten spare parts in their archives. Alan Bamber writes great posts on Facebook about the many interesting characters he has met, including some formidable Home Economics teachers. AND he drives a Landy;)
Bamber Sewing Machine Centre supplies and services school sewing machines and they give honest advice to their prospective clients. I was really impressed that they sent away a lady who had received a small legacy for a sewing machine away until she had time to have a good think about what she really wanted from a machine before making a snap purchase. I am sure she will go back to them when she has done her research on the brands and models.
The shop is in a busy part of Eccles, Greater Manchester. When I visited earlier this year there was a constant stream of visitors looking at new machines, picking up machines that had been serviced, people buying fabric or machine accessories, and also attending classes. The Bamber team have phenomenal knowledge and experience of everything to do with sewing machines - my latest purchase, the tiny 1970’s Elna Lotus will be next in line to be sent down for a spa treatment - in fact, I bet they could even fix the seized antique hand cranks!
Sunday, 6 November 2016
I finally made a start on quilting Shield Maiden! As it is saggy, crumpled mess of linen when not stretched out tight, I decided that it would be impossible to pre-mark any lines so I blithely relied on using a quilting ruler with registration lines. It worked reasonably well but there was a bit of unpicking as a couple of lines in the middle seemed to be wandering off course. I used a Friction pen and a Crayola felt-tip to mark the rest of the lines. Obviously, I did not bother to test whether these would be easily removable so I will need to soak it later and hope for the best.
The diagonal lines at each side are too long to do in one pass on the Q24 longarm so each line stops then restarts after the quilt is rolled on. It is entirely possible that I may quilt it all again using metallic thread on the domestic machine if I can see where those joins are. My fingers and wrist ached after negotiating all of the small curves with a 2.5” circle template and I still have not decided what will happen around the triskeles but various crossings-out in my notebook may be considered.
I hope to complete the basic long arming this week then try to reign myself in from adding too much more to what is currently a minimalist project…
I expect that I broke health and safety guidelines when I made Bonfire Night toffee apples at school but they were absolutely perfect - so perfect that I had to take the pan home to give it a really good, hot soak to get rid of the “hard crack” toffee that set instantly.
I made two trips to Stirling over the weekend to deliver and collect Fenella from a Girl Guiding event that focuses on community projects, leading to an international trip. She had a great time with Guides from all over Scotland whom she had never met before. She enjoyed watching Guy Fawkes fireworks over the city from her room at the Youth Hostel near the castle. The drive home on Sunday was glorious as there are still gorgeous autumn colours and now fresh snow on the hills.
Sunday, 30 October 2016
I had a house full of visitors this week and I entertained them with hot soup at a waterfall, visits to my local junkshops and a trip to the Bird of Prey Centre near Huntly. We were the only visitors right at the end of the tourist season so we had a great time pretending to be owl and eagle handlers. The birds are all hand-reared and some have even gone on to starring roles in Harry Potter films. I really think I should get a pet owl…;)
My 2 days in school had a Hallowe’en theme which involved some research, artwork and maths with a seasonal theme. The children scooped out pumpkins then made soup and roasted the seeds in the oven. They had a go at carving jack o’lantern faces or decorating them with glitter and feathers in a homage to “Day of the Dead” masks.
The weekend got off to a cracking start when Tania and I went to a tiny, wooden village hall to see 3 modern Scottish folk bands jam with each other. The next time they are on tour up here I will be the first to book tickets! Not only was the music fantastic but they were all great story-tellers - some funny, others tragic - explaining the inspiration for their tunes and songs.
It was time to do some serious catching up with customer quilts at the weekend, while Nell’s 13th birthday/Hallowe’en sleepover was going on. She had a delightful group of girls here in fancy dress and they organised all of their own entertainment. All I had to do was cook for them - I think they enjoyed their breakfast waffles:)
I managed to do a quilt binding, baste a shot-cottons quilt for a hand quilter (pity the stitches are half an inch long because it looks fantastic), and fit in a rush job using a digital pantograph and deal with/fix an unscheduled Windows restart right in the middle of the quilt. Theoretically I should have cleared the decks enough to start quilting “Shield Maiden” at last…
Sunday, 23 October 2016
I have absolutely no photos to prove that I have actually had a pretty busy week. Lots of things were ticked off on my list and I finished almost 3 out of 4 customer quilts then promptly received 3 more! I started and finished a quilt top that should have waited until everything else got done but once I got started I just wanted to finish it. There are deliberately no photos of it as it is a Christmas quilt for Freya at Uni;)
After 16 years of working with a progressively dysfunctional cooker, a new one arrived on Monday and we have watched in amazement as cakes rose without burning in a pristine oven that even lit up. As it has a shiny ceramic top I felt that it needed a quilted tartan cover, at least while it is new!
I printed out plenty of worksheets to keep my school class going until Christmas but my children were not impressed when they had to print their homework on green paper because I had used up all of the white.
In fact, all sorts of admin got done and after some dithering over routes and prices, Ellen and I have now booked flights to Savannah for QuiltCon in February 2017. I am also excited at the prospect of teaching on a Bernina Q24 in Bavaria in April - I just need to work out which classes to offer:))
I will have family staying for a few days this week and sadly, the school holidays are over so I daresay another week will flash by in the relentless rush towards (sshh!!) … Christmas!